The Department of Social Development provided an update on the progress made on the Early Childhood Development (ECD)-related clauses in the Children's Amendment Bill, the scope of the work that had been done, and timelines for submission of the Bill to Parliament.
In a virtual meeting, the Committee asked about the timelines for the submission of the Bill, and about the composition and mandate of the technical team. It also requested the timeframes for the migration process, and raised issues around the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) budget and the high vacancy rate.
Apologies were received from Ms D Ngwenya (EFF), who was not feeling well, Ms M Sukers (ACDP) who was attending a mini plenary which clashed with the time of the meeting, and Ms K Bilankulu (ANC), who had a doctors’ appointment. Apologies were also received from Minister Lindiwe Zulu, who was attending to an urgent family matter, and Deputy Minister Henrietta Bogopane-Zulu, who had connectivity problems in her current location.
Children's Amendment Bill
The Department of Social Development (DSD) provided an update to the Committee on the progress made on the Early Childhood Development (ECD)-related clauses in the Children's Amendment Bill, the scope of the work that had been done, and timelines for submission of the Bill to Parliament. The Department confirmed that it had not received the timelines from the Department of Basic Education.
It was proposed that the composition of the technical team be made up of legal representatives from the DSD, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the Department of Basic Education (DBE), and Parliament. Policy makers from various departments should also form part of the technical team. The DSD had consulted with affected parties, such as the DBE, the ECD sector and SALGA.
The Chairperson said a joint workshop was urgently required between the Portfolio Committees of Social Development and Basic Education, to review the migration project which was aimed at ensuring that quality service was provided to children. The purpose of the migration must therefore be dealt with as quickly as possible. He asked if the DBE had commenced public hearings and was addressing the urgency of the second amendment bill.
The DSD had had consultations with the DBE, which understood the urgency of the matter. Presentations on the ECD clauses had also made, and the DBE was aware that it would be inheriting the second amendment bill. However, the Department had requested that the Committee forward a directive to the DBE in respect of the timelines.
The Chairperson explained that matters around children and social development, especially as they related to psychosocial-related issues, were critical to the DSD, and the Committee was leading the Children’s Amendment Bill because the protection of children was one of its core functions. However in respect of matters related to ECD, the principal mandated department was the DBE.
Ms A Abrahams (DA) asked the Department to display the slides on the composition of the technical team. She also asked it to list the names of those in the technical team, and said that a date was urgently needed for the joint Committee meeting.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said that she wanted to hear about the timeframes in the report, but it was understandable that the process was now with the Department of Education. She observed that the process was very urgent, because the ECD sector was in crisis, and the joint workshop needed to be held as soon as possible. The DSD should also engage with the DBE to finalise the timeframe for the migration process.
Ms L Arries (EFF) said that she was happy there had been engagements between the Department and SALGA, and also noted the need for an engagement with the DBE to fast track the process.
Mr D Stock (ANC) expressed similar sentiments on the need for a joint committee meeting. He commended the good work unfolding between the DSD and the DBE.
The Chairperson requested the Department to present the slides on the composition of the technical team and the terms of reference for the proposed technical task team.
He said that the technical relationship between the DBE and the Committee should continue. The Committee would write a letter to both the DBE and the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education about the urgency of the joint workshop. Timeframes would also be requested from the technical team.
The Committee agreed that there was need for urgency in dealing with the state of ECD.
The Department informed the Committee about the Child Protection Week between 29 May and 5 June, which would deal with the national status and challenges associated with children.
The Chairperson said that there had been no adequate feedback from the Department regarding the intervention, assistance, number of queries and issues raised by stakeholders on children’s matters. He commented that the Child Protection Week would add value only if it could be demonstrated that the Department understood the problems faced by the children, and the interventions that it would be making.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the Budget Vote 19, the Annual Performance Plans of the Department of Social Development and its Entities for 2021/22
Ms Abrahams referred to the concern raised previously by the Committee over the absence of a budget for the top-up grant for child support. She also expressed concern about the cutting of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) budget and the high vacancy rate at SASSA, and how it affected service delivery.
Ms Arries said that the issue of the budget for social workers, the shortage of social workers, and the SASSA system, needed to be looked into.
Ms Van der Merwe observed that there had been discussions around non-payments, late payments and subsidy cuts of non-profit organisations (NPOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who provide vital services to the state, and said that the Minister needed to resolve this as a matter of urgency. The issue of the debts that the Department had not recovered also had to be addressed, and all avenues should be explored to ensure that the debts owed to the DSD and its entities were recovered. The Minister should ensure, as a matter of urgency, the implementation of the 2018 Cabinet resolution on the employment of social workers, and ensure that she finalises the budget allocation with Treasury for the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) top-up grant. SASSA needed to clamp down harshly and effectively on fraud and corruption within the entity, particularly as it pertained to fraudulent activities by its officials.
The Chairperson responded that most of the issues raised should be addressed by the concerned committees, and proposed that the Department carry out investigations, since there were no evidence-based documents before the Committee.
Ms Van der Merwe moved for adoption of the report, and Ms Abrahams seconded.
The report was adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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